6 March 2009
On International Women’s Day (8 March) the Red Cross highlights the plight of vulnerable women as 70 per cent of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty worldwide are female.
In Kyrgyzstan, crippling poverty experienced by many families prevents girls from receiving an education, making it difficult for them to find jobs or provide for themselves or their families.
The British Red Cross is supporting the Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent in running education and vocational training courses to give vulnerable women useful qualifications that will help them find jobs and become more integrated in everyday society. The programme is co-funded by the European Commission.
Learning to sew
When 18-year-old Saera Orunbayeva's father died, the future looked bleak for her family. Her mother, who suffered from depression, developed serious health problems after her husband’s death and had to quit her job at a textile factory.
Then Saera’s friends told her about sewing courses run by the Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent. She proved to be a fantastic student and now works in a dressmaking shop, creating and mending clothes.
Gemma Dowbekin, programme support officer, said: “The programme is making a huge difference to women’s lives. Since 2007, more than 1,200 women have received vocational training and nearly 90 per cent are now employed or self-employed.”
Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent
Rosa Shayahmetova, secretary general of the Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent Society, said: “International Women’s Day is my favourite holiday. I like it as much as I like New Year celebrations and my daughter’s birthday.”
Asked whether she believes there are particular difficulties linked to being a woman and a leader of a national organisation, Rosa said: “Difficulties do not have gender. Like any manager, I sometimes have to be quick in making decisions and tough in implementing them.
“In our culture, being a woman means being a mother and the guardian of the ‘home fire’ – in this sense I am 100 per cent a woman. Only my home fire is much bigger than normal, and I feel responsible not only for my home, but also for the family called the Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent.”
Read Saera’s story
More about sewing in Kyrgyzstan
This project is primarily funded by the European Union.